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Spotlight Report

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Indictments ruled out in church probe

AG's office says Law, top aides won't be charged

By Ralph Ranalli and Walter V. Robinson, Globe Staff, 7/21/2003

A state grand jury investigation into the handling of clergy sexual abuse allegations by Cardinal Bernard F. Law and his top subordinates in the Boston Archdiocese will not result in criminal indictments, the spokeswoman for Attorney General Thomas F. Reilly said last night.

Ann Donlan said Reilly would issue a report detailing the results of the 16-month criminal investigation by the end of the week. ''We've been working on this for quite some time,'' she said. ''The report . . . documents what happened and why, and it focuses heavily on what the archdiocese has to do to protect children now and in the future.''

However, Donlan said that the grand jury will not recommend indictments against Law or other bishops who were responsible for handling sexual abuse complaints against priests in the Boston Archdiocese.

The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne, spokesman for the Boston Archdiocese, said the church would not respond until the report is released. Coyne said he did not know whether Law, who resigned as Boston's archbishop in December, had been informed of Reilly's conclusions.

Reilly said publicly in April that it would be difficult to indict church officials for allowing abusive priests to remain in parish work, because of weak child protection laws in Massachusetts and the lack of a statute in the state mandating that clergy report allegations of sexual abuse to state authorities.

At that time, Reilly said he believed there was clear evidence of wrongdoing by church officials. ''This could have been stopped a long time ago, but it wasn't,'' Reilly said then. ''There was a cover-up, an elaborate scheme to keep it away from law enforcement, to keep it quiet. The church and the leadership of the church felt it was more important to protect the church than any children, and, as a result of that, needless numbers, countless numbers of children, were harmed.''

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer for more than 100 alleged abuse victims, told the Associated Press yesterday that he had not seen the attorney general's report. He expressed disappointment that there would be no criminal charges filed.

''Given the number of tragedies that have occurred by these sexual molestations and the allowance of these sexual molestations, many of my clients were hoping that there would be indictments so church leaders and individuals would be held responsible,'' he said.

Lawyers close to Reilly's office said that the report had gone through at least three drafts before Reilly was satisfied with its organization and wording. While it still had not been finalized late yesterday, Reilly is intent on completing and issuing it before Bishop Sean Patrick O'Malley is installed to succeed Law. That ceremony is scheduled for July 30.

''Certainly we are endeavoring to get it to Bishop O'Malley before his installation,'' Donlan said. ''We believe it is important for him to have it, and we want to give it to him. Timing-wise, it is the important thing to do,'' Donlan said.

Donlan said the report includes recommendations for further legal measures to prevent child abuse, including the passage of a bill pending before the Legislature to increase criminal penalties for the failure to report suspected child abuse.

State law has long required youth workers, medical personnel, teachers, and other professionals who work with children to report instances of suspected child abuse, but attempts to broaden the statute to include members of the clergy died in the Legislature several times during the early and mid-1990s. The Legislature approved the measure last year during the height of the scandal.

The bill authored by Reilly and promoted in the report would allow for penalties of up to 2 1/2 years in prison and fines of as much as $25,000 if such ''mandated reporters'' fail to notify the state of suspected cases of child abuse.

One state official close to the investigation said last night that the strength of the report will be its detailed analysis of the roles that Law and each of his bishops played in facilitating the continued service of priests who were known to have abused children. The official said the report goes into great detail into what each of the bishops ''did and failed to do to protect children. The report is heavily focused in that area.''

Reilly's investigation into the Boston Archdiocese's handling of clergy sexual abuse cases was regarded as the most intensive probe into the church since the scandal erupted in January 2002. Law spent several hours in front of the grand jury, which met to preserve its secrecy behind closed doors in the attorney general's office at the McCormack Building. Several of Law's bishops also testified, including Thomas V. Daily, now bishop of the Brooklyn Diocese; John B. McCormack, now bishop of the Manchester, N.H., Diocese; Alfred Hughes, now archbishop of the New Orleans Diocese; Robert J. Banks, now bishop of the Green Bay, Wisc., Diocese; William Murphy, now bishop of Rockville Center Diocese in New York; and John D'Arcy, bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Ind. D'Arcy, who served as auxiliary bishop in Boston, is the only Law deputy known to have raised objections to the reassignment of priests who had molested children.

Stephen Kurkjian of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

This story ran on page A1 of the Boston Globe on 7/21/2003.
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